Two into one: Public Health, Social Work combine

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After several months of planning, the Board of Trustees approved the formation of a new college at Saint Louis University on Sept 22. The college will be a reorganization of the current School of Public Health and the School of Social Work to create the College for Public Health and Social Justice.

“We believe that the new college will put SLU ‘ahead of the curve’ in terms of public health and global health in the 21st century,” Edwin Trevathan, Dean of the School of Public Health, said. “This transformative move will allow the new college to simply be better and do more than the two schools separately.”

Trevathan explained that the new college will better reflect the values of Saint Louis University.

“The new college, with the fields together,” Trevathan said, “allows us to better focus on social justice, social determinants of health and the health and well-being of the underserved and the disadvantaged – key for us living out the Jesuit mission of public health and of social work.”

The planning for the college began when the leadership of Public Health and Social Work recognized commonalities within their academics and mission and began to investigate ways to further collaborate. Both schools have similar cultures and a strong emphasis on social justice and helping the disadvantaged of society.

“We have high expectations for the new college,” Donald Linhorst, director of the School of Social Work, said. ”We believe it can be transformational, helping to position our college and Saint Louis University as a leader among its peers in interdisciplinary research, teaching and service, and doing so within a social justice framework.”

By February 2012, discussion had begun about the possibility of creating a new college. A Committee on Potential Reorganization was formed, consisting of eight faculty representatives from the School of Public Health and four from the School of Social Work. Other member of the faculty and staff of the schools were involved in “Impact Groups,” which investigated reorganization possibilities and made suggestions to the Committee.

In April 2012, after approximately two months of meetings and collection of faculty and administrative input and feedback, the Committee recommended the formation of a new college to encompass both schools.

“The concept of the reorganization was viewed as potentially positive by the university senior leadership, but only if A) the new college would be truly ‘transformative’ and allow the new college to do more than the two schools could do separately,” Trevathan explained in an email to The University News, “[and] B) an acceptable financial plan, good business plan and a good transition plan could be developed.”

Over the summer, the Committee and leadership within the schools continued to collect feedback from faculty, staff and students and began to draft financial, business and transitional plans to be submitted to Manoj Patankar, Vice President for Academic Affairs, President Lawrence Biondi S.J.

On Sept. 21, the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees recommended the creation of the College for Public Health and Social Justice. The next day, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to begin reorganization.

The new College will become fully operational beginning July 1, 2013.

Students currently enrolled in the Schools of Public Health and Social Work will be absorbed into the new college, with the exception of those graduating this academic year. Students graduating before July 2013 have the option to request their diploma say they attended the College for Public Health and Social Work.

While the School of Social Work will remain its own school under the new college, the programs within Public Health will also stay the same and the current centers and institutes in the two schools with carry over into the new structure.

Core requirements for those enrolled in Public Health programs will not change with the reorganization, but those in Social Work will have an additional public health class to take. Students in the college will have the opportunity to choose from a wider variety of electives in their programs.

“Social work students will have a competitive advantage in the marketplace with a strong foundation in public health.  Public Health students will be better prepared to work in the real world in collaboration with social workers and leaders of non-profit organizations,” Trevathan said. “All students will have more elective course opportunities in the new college.”

The College for Public Health and Social Justice will strive to emphasis the social justice mission of the university while creating connections so students are capable of working across disciplines in the future.

“We wanted to create a new college that would be truly unique, enhance each School beyond what it could do on its own and make important contributions to our respective professions and the individuals and communities we serve,” Linhorst said.